Ian Fleming's second 007 novel is probably not the most intense or action-packed of his repetoire, but it is a fairly enjoyable read. Bond's investigation into illegal currency trafficking leads him into a culture entrenched in voodoo superstition.
Rory Kinnear does a great job of narrating the story. His crisp British tones are perfect for the story and he brings Bond to life superbly. His voicework for Mr Bigg's goons is a joy to listen to, however his attempts at American accents are terrible and thankfully infrequent.
One thing this audiobook has done is instill in me an incentive to get the next in the series. I've always been a huge fan of the Bond films, but never read the books. While it is hard to listen to the story without thinking of the films that were based on them, they are worth the time.
This is my first foray into a Tom Clancy novel. I love the films based on his books, but until now, never thought I had the patience to sit through the written work. This one is a great read in terms of characters and story.
The major story centres around Cardinal, a Soviet double agent working to sneak secrets out of Russia to the CIA. There is also a plot that sees the USA and the USSR racing to complete their versions of a laser defence system. There are a lot of characters in the book, but they are all fully fleshed out and realised. Surprisingly, Jack Ryan himself takes a backseat for much of the story. As the title suggests, the book focuses a lot on Cardinal, and luckily he is a very likable character.
Now to the narration. One of the reasons I was hesitant to listen to the audio versions was that I had heard that Michael Prichard's narration was flat and boring. It is to an extent, but it wasn't bad enough that I had to stop listening. He doesn't have any range as a actor for different characters and when he does try to do different voices, he seems to just give up after about one sentence. The book would definitely have been better with an actual voice actor, but it was tolerable.
I bought this book under the impression that it was about a troubled widower with writer's block who moves to his lakeside retreat, only to find it haunted by malicious ghosts. While this is partly true, the story focuses more on the main character's interaction with a single mother trying to protect her daughter from her evil custody-seeking father-in-law. The ghost stuff takes more of a backseat to this other storyline. Eventually the two parts unite to show that they were all part of the same story anyway, but it still felt like a cop out.
I wasn't looking forward to Stephen King's narration. After listening to him speak in the afterword of his other books, he sounded too much like he was reading from the page. Not natural enough. However I enjoyed his reading of this book more than I expected to. While he is not as good as other readers (I think anyone could have done a better job), I found I wasn't as distracted as I thought I would be. He lends good nuances to some of the characters and isn't too bad.
The book is a mediocre read in the grand scheme of King's other work. If you're planning to listen, make sure you know what you're getting into.
Doctor Sleep’s story follows Danny Torrance – the special boy who survived his father’s murderous possession by the Overlook Hotel twenty years ago – living a nomad’s life as he moves from place to place, wrestling with an alcohol problem that he uses to dull the effects of the Shining. His ability has become more powerful over the years and the demons from his childhood still haunt his waking hours and his nightmares.
King has managed to take the idea of the Shining and develop it in ways not before thought of. We encounter characters who have a fair bit of “shine” that manifests itself as different abilities. Some of these characters are good, some are evil. The latter includes the True Knot; semi-immortals who were once human, but are no longer. They survive by feeding off the “Steam” that children with the Shining produce when they are tortured to death. Of course, Danny inevitably crosses paths with them as he seeks to save a powerful child from their insane obsession. It’s a good story. Nothing wrong with it at all. It just doesn’t stand out from King’s earlier works.
As to the narration, I’ve only ever seen Will Patton in movies and was a little sceptical as to his selection as the story’s narrator. I haven’t ever seen much acting range from the man. I was wrong. Patton brings each character to life in a performance that I wouldn’t have believed possible from the understated actor. He is brilliant.
The majority of books detailing Ned Kelly’s exploits usually present a sympathetic view of the man. Even people who know the major history behind the Kelly Gang see him as an Australian hero. While this book seems to start as yet another of those, it gradually evens out to a neutral stance. This is good, for make no mistake, Ned Kelly was a killer and relished being an outlaw. Fitzsimons presents all the well-detailed facts, supported by multiple testimonies of Kelly himself and the people who encountered him.
The book is broken up into four parts: Ned’s early life, his early crimes and the Stringybark Creek murders, the last stand at the siege of Glenrowan, and his trial and final days in prison. The story is paced well, embellished with Fitzsimons’ usual flair and narrated fairly by Aspel. The siege of Glenrowan is particularly fascinating and even Ned’s final days in prison are foreboding and poignant.
The book’s accounts allow the reader to make up their own mind about what kind of man Ned Kelly was. But no one can deny he was a victim of the harsh times and circumstances within which he grew up. It was a time that pitted rich squatters against the poor selectors (the Kellys among many others). The rich got richer and the poor struggled to put food on the table. These conditions led Kelly to early thievery and eventually onto bigger crimes. This doesn’t excuse his deeds, but it does make you understand why he did the things he did.
Such is life.
The original story of Transylvanian Count Dracula starts off great, but slows down as the story moves forward. Since the story is told in the form of correspondence and journal entries (which is a fantastic approach), the characters tend to be a bit long-winded at times. They use seven words, where two will do. They also go off onto tangents that are completely irrelevant to the story (Mina and the old man for example). This is the reason the pace suffers. Van Helsing is also hard to understand at times. Whilst I understand English is supposed to be his second language and his mispronounced words add more authenticity, it can be trying at times.
The narration cannot be faulted though. Each cast member brings their own unique personality to the characters. Having several narrators also breaks up the monotony of listening to just one person, as most other books do.
Such are the words that permeate Orwell’s dystopian novel. His depressing vision of a totalitarian society constantly under surveillance and whose very thoughts are controlled is masterfully detailed. Of particular fascination is the doctrine of “the Party” and how it is detailed in the character Emannual Goldstein’s book. The intricacies of Doublethink and the motivations for war are utterly captivating.
Samuel West's narration is superb and has a lot of conviction. I only gave 4 stars on it because other narrators I've heard have a larger vocal range, but he can't be faulted otherwise.
As the book goes on, it does slow in Part 2, before wrenching you back into the harsh warped reality of the book’s setting. It is at this point that harsh truths are learned and the details of how the Party creates “unpersons” is revealed in all its horror. The scariest thing is not that the party’s philosophy is insane, but that it is so twisted that when pushed far enough, an individual may come to see that in actual fact, there is no other way. It almost makes a sick sort of sense. Almost.
This is only the second Dan Brown book I’ve read/listened to. I’ve avoided his books because I’ve heard his prose is terrible. Having said that, I found “Digital Fortress” to be highly enjoyable and thought I’d give him the benefit of the doubt. I know this review is long, but bear with me. I may save you some time and money.
“The Lost Symbol” returns us to Harvard Symbologist Robert Langdon, and his search for the mythical pyramid of the Freemasons. It’s a good idea with loads of potential and the pace initially seems to be well set (it actually isn’t). As always there appears to be plenty of research put into the subject by Brown and the elements that bring the story together are very intriguing. But Brown’s greatest strength is also his most frustrating one.
Brown appears to cast himself in the role of Langdon (the all-knowing teacher) and relishes talking down to the rest of the characters (and his students), who represent the majority of the “ignorant dumb masses” that think they know things, but are sadly mistaken i.e. us. There are many scenes involving these other characters making statements about a historic building or event, only to have Langdon correct them. There is an overwhelming sense of Brown’s pomposity and condescension present when these scenes take place that it’s almost enough to make you turn off the audiobook.
The other frustrating thing Brown does is tiptoe around the big revelations of the story, making the characters spell out every step involved in deducing the big reveal instead of just getting to the bloody point. It’s like they forget they’re racing against the clock. ”I know Peter is about to die any minute and the future of the country is at stake, but let me spend 15 minutes giving you a dissertation on something…” It’s enough to make you gouge your eyes out!
Add to that the fact that certain chapters end on “big” cliffhangers and we don’t return to those scenes for some time after. It’s designed to keep you “turning the pages” until you discover the next anti-climactic irrelevant plot point, but it just ends up making you want to punch Brown in the face…repeatedly...with a shovel. Oh and did I mention Langdon seems to have become a complete moron? You’d think after his DVC and A&D adventures he would be more open-minded about things, but no. The same old scepticism first, be-shocked-and-dumbfounded-after-being-proven-wrong second, still applies.
The narrator cannot be faulted though. He sincerely gives the book his best reading and performance and does a good job of depicting the characters. But even he can’t save this train wreck.
All that being said, I nevertheless found myself swept up in the book as it approached its climax (I know right. WTF?). The character of Mal’akh is actually quite interesting, if a little too similar to Thomas Harris’ Francis Dollarhyde and a complete cliché. The book ends up being an okay read if you can stomach the negatives and the twist that many will see coming from a continent away. The last hour of the book is also unnecessary and the final revelation of the Ancient Word is a complete “That’s it?” moment. Don't waste your time.
If you'll excuse the sarcastic headline, I'll get to the review in a moment. It's just that the word "affluent/affluence" is used so much in this book, it became a bit of a running joke to me. But I digress.
"The Firm" was apparently Grisham's first breakout bestseller and it also happens to be the first time I've read/listened to one of his books. I was impressed. The story, whilst not groundbreaking is nevertheless engaging and full of fleshed-out characters. The pace is nicely set, starting with McDeere's recruitment, subsequent instant affluence (see what I did there?), and the eventual realisation that maybe things are too good to be true. His race against the firm is gripping and a cause for staying in my work car long after I have arrived at my destination.
Scott Brick's narration is fantastic. He manages to have the cockiness of McDeere, the menace of Locke, and even the slobbish nature of Devasher down perfectly. I think I'll be looking at a few more Grisham novels to add to my list after this one. Very well done indeed.
This is the first Neil Gaiman book I've listened to. In his words, though this story is short, it is very "dark". Whilst I agree it is dark-ish, it isn't what I was expecting. The seamless transition from our world to the "other world" is done very well. The Ursela character in her true form is also quite menacing. It reminds me of the abstract nature of some of Stephen King's good work.
The story is interesting enough, but the thing that really got on my nerves was Gaiman's narration. In every scene of the book, he speaks with an upward positive-sounding naive inflection. While this fits with the personality of the protagonist (an innocent 7-year-old boy), the dark tone of the story makes it completely out of place. Even in scenes that are supposed to be terrifying, the same tone of voice is there. It doesn't fit and it takes away from the story.
The other thing that I couldn't get over was that for a 7-year-old boy, the protagonist seems to be one of the world's great philosophers. He says and thinks things that no 7-year-old I've ever met has any understanding of. You can't even explain this by the character being an avid reader of books. The things he makes comments on would escape the understanding of someone that young. On top of this, there are times when Gaiman seems to remember that this is a young child and the character has a complete lack of understanding of a situation. Consistency is key, Neil. He's either a very smart worldly young boy, or a clueless child. You can't have it both ways.
A bit of a letdown, considering everyone praises this author.
"The Left Hand of God" tells the story of Cale, one of possibly several thousand boys imprisoned within the Sanctuary, a fortress controlled by religious fanatics whose purpose is to brutally indoctrinate the boys into the faith of the Hanged Redeemer, with often-times bloody and fatal results. Cale has become disillusioned by the the constant mental and physical punishments doled out by the redeemers and seeks an escape with the help of two other similarly dispirited boys.
The story has a lot of potential. Cale's seemingly invincible skills hint at some supernatural purpose. However we do not find out what it is until the closing chapter of the book. By that time, I had lost most of my interest in what was happening. The characters do not instill a sense of caring in the reader. Cale is particularly cold and lacking personality. Understandable given his upbringing. The other characters seem more light-hearted and I know I should care about what happens to them, but they are just as hollow. If any one of them had died, I wouldn't have felt any sense of loss.
A hollow bleakness permeates the whole book, reinforced by Sean Barrett's depressing rattling narration. The narration does fit with the tone of the book though, and Barrett does try to liven up the characters, but it's Hoffman's writing that loses the cause. Even once outside the Sanctuary and in the bustling city of Memphis, the depressing vibe is still there. It doesn't make me want to go back and read the second book. It's just too damn bleak! I understand this is what the author intended, but there are limits. It's a shame, because the next book could very well be fantastic, as Cale realizes what he is destined for. I might even consider it if he wasn't such a callous bore of a character.
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